Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies

cookie.jpgChocolate Toffee Butter Cookies – Makes 5 dozen

2 1/3 cups flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp salt ( I use French Gray)

1 cup unsalted butter (softened, but cool)

1 cup packed light brown sugar (not dark brown)

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

1 cup toffee bits without chocolate ( I just used English Toffee bars with chocolate)

1 ½ cup semisweet chocolate chips ( I used milk chocolate)

1 tbl vegetable oil (I used butter) 2/3 cup pecans toasted and finely chopped

  1. In a bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, and salt; whisk them to blend.
  2. In an electric mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed for 3 minutes or until fluffy. Beat in the egg and vanilla.
  3. On low speed, add the flour mixture in 2 additions, and mix until blended.
  4. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand. Stir in the toffee bits.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Roll 2 logs about 9 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Flatten the logs into 2 1/2-inch-wide rectangles. Wrap rectangles in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 1/2 hours or until firm.
  6. Set the oven at 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
  7. With a long knife, cut the dough 1/4-inch thick. Transfer to baking sheets, leaving 1 inch between them. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until lightly browned around edges. Cool cookies completely on the sheets. Bake remaining cookies.
  8. Transfer the baked cookies to a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. In a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water, heat the chocolate chips, stirring occasionally, until they melt. Stir in the oil and mix until smooth.
  9. Holding one side of the cookies, dip a part of each one into the chocolate or drizzle the chocolate over the cookies with a spoon. Sprinkle pecans on top. Let the chocolate set about 1 hour.

 

Chocolate Toffee Butter Cookies

Learning from Bad Cookies

Interesting article on how to bake a better cookie.  I have certainly learned over the years.  This is good basic information
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1. Amount of Flour

Getting the flour ratio right is crucial to a nicely textured cookie. Too much and your cookie will be dry, crumbly, and chalky. Too little and your cookies will burn easily, spread a TON, and will feel greasy to the touch. Not good!

2. The Mixing Method

It is tempting to dump all your ingredients into a bowl and stir them together all at once. Surprisingly the results aren’t terrible, but the cookies were inconsistent in flavor. On the other hand, our over-creamed batch resulted in overly tough, puck-like cookies. Finding a happy medium between doing the most and doing the least is important for both the texture and flavor of your cookies.

Buckwheat Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

3. Baking Powder

There’s a reason baking powder is never called for in cookies: Adding it results in cookies that have a Play-Doh texture and a vaguely chemical taste.

4. Eggs

You gotta have ‘em! Leaving them out will result in overly sweet balls of dough. Crunchy on the outside, doughy in the middle, and completely unsatisfying.

Soft & Fudgy Chocolate Chip Cookies - Delish.com

5. Sugar

Not enough and your cookies will taste more like shortbread, too much and they’ll be crunchy, burnt, and obviously way too sweet.

6. Bake Time

We’ve all burnt a batch of cookies, so you likely know the deal with over-baked cookies. They’re dry, crumbly, and come with a slightly bitter burnt flavor. Still edible, though! Under-baked cookies are doughy, soft, and slightly greasy. Luckily, if that’s your issue, you can pop ‘em back in the oven and give them a little more time.

Learning from Bad Cookies

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

homemade-spaghetti-sauce-horizontal-1530890913.jpg

Pasta is one of those things you’ve never going to stop making, so you should probably know how to do it well.  From the right size of pot to cooking time to storing leftovers, here are some pasta mistakes I suggest you stop making immediately.

Note: this guide is exclusive to standard, Italian-style wheat pasta. Many other types of noodles, like soba, glass, mixian, and rice vermicelli, as well as gluten-free pasta, sometimes cook differently, so for those, it’s best to consult the package for best practices.

 

1. Using a pot that’s too small

Sure, it’s a pain to wash a big stockpot, but you know what’s just plain dumb? Slowly shoving a pound of fettuccine into a one-quart saucepan until it snaps in half. When making pasta, especially longer noodles like spaghetti, linguine, and bucatini, it’s best to use a big pot (one with a diameter that is at least the same length as your noodle) with plenty of water. If you don’t have a stockpot, you can actually boil pasta in a skillet.

2. Not adding enough salt to the water

It may seem bonkers to toss a fistful of salt into pasta water, but keep in mind that you’re not actually ingesting all that water. To actually have a fighting chance at seasoning the pasta while it boils, you need a lot (like several tablespoons) of salt. There really isn’t an exact measurement to use here, but I would say a good rule is three tablespoons of Kosher salt per pound of pasta. If you don’t have Kosher salt, go buy some. Don’t use your fancy Himalayan pink or flakey sea salts (they’re expensive and most of this salt is going down the drain), nor iodized table salt (it sucks).

3. The water isn’t really boiling

In her brilliant book Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat, Samin Nosrat says to evenly prepare noodles made with wheat, they must be cooked at a vigorous boil, as “the pandemonium keeps the noodles moving, preventing them from sticking to one another as they release starch.” This isn’t a mere suggestion, folks. Bring your water to a rolling boil, dump in the pasta, give it a stir, and ensure that the pot continues to boil.

4. Adding oil to pasta water

Some people think that to keep pasta from sticking itself in the pot they must add olive oil to the pot. False. If your pot is large enough, at a rolling boil, and you’ve stirred the noodles around after dumping them in, there’s no reason pasta should stick to itself or to the pot while cooking.

5. Overcooking pasta

If you’re cooking pasta according to the package directions, odds are you’re going to overcook it. Especially if you’re planning to mix the pasta into heated sauce, pasta will taste perfectly cooked (that is, soft with a slight bite, also known as al dente) when it’s pulled out of the pot about three minutes earlier than the package says.

6. Tossing the pasta water

Most people simply dump their cooked pasta into a colander, letting all cooking liquid run down the drain. Don’t be one of those people. Instead, use a slotted spoon, spider, or tongs to pull out your pasta and drop it into your sauce or put it in a colander, leaving the pot of warm water on the stove. Starchy pasta water is the secret ingredient your sauces have been missing. Whether you’re making cacio e pepe or linguine with clams, a hefty splash of pasta water will thicken your sauce and encourage it to coat each noodle completely.

7. Rinsing the pasta after cooking

Shocking pasta with cold water after it comes out of the pot will indeed stop the pasta from cooking more, but it will also rinse away all the delightful starch that helps sauce cling to noodles. To avoid the overcooking factor, see rule #5. If you’re rinsing to ensure the noodles don’t stick together, you should simply be ready to add the pasta into your sauce as soon as it comes out of the pot.

8. Storing leftovers improperly

You can get very sick from poorly stored pasta, so if you pay attention to any of these tips, make it this one. After your pasta dish is cooked and divided among plates, any leftovers should be cooled, transferred to an airtight container, and refrigerated. When cooked food is held at a temperature between 40ºF and 140ºF, it’s known as the “danger zone” by the USDA. Bacteria love moist foods like pasta, so any leftovers should be stored in the fridge and fully reheated before you eat them again (and it’s best not to wait more than a day). You may feel bad about throwing away food, but we all know reheated mushy pasta isn’t very good anyway.

Pasta Mistakes to Stop Making

Making Kahlua is Easy

Did you always wonder what went into Kahlua? I love the taste when added to coffee but never knew what was in it.  When I was researching how to make your own Vanilla, the same website had a recipe for making Kahlua.

Homemade Kahlua Recipe

Homemade Kahlua

One of my favorite gifts to bring to holiday parties is handmade liquors; infused vodkas, coconut rum and my personal favorite, Kahlua. Homemade Kahlua is very easy to make. A few simple ingredients are all it takes and you’ll have a Kahlua that will rival any store brand.

Once your creation is completed, place the delicious Kahlua in a decorative glass bottle, tie with a pretty ribbon and tag telling the recipient it was made especially for them. Remember to put one aside for yourself to celebrate your thoughtfulness and your creation.

Homemade Kahlua Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 1/2 cups instant coffee crystals
  • 4 1/2 cups 100 proof vodka
  • 8 cups of sugar
  • 2 vanilla beans

Directions:

Mix water, sugar and coffee crystals. Heat and stir until dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Add vodka. Stir to combine. Pour mixture into 6, 12.5 oz. bottles. Cut each vanilla bean into thirds and drop the bean into each bottle. Cap. After 2-3 weeks strain, remove beans and rebottle.

Makes the perfect gift!

Making Kahlua is Easy

Quick Rustic Pear Tart

Pear Tart.jpg

Ingredients:

Crust:

1/2 cup pastry flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

2 tablespoons buttermilk

3 tablespoons of ice water

Filling:

3 medium pears

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 Tablespoons butter cut up in 1/4″ cubes

I egg beaten

Directions:

  1. To make the crust, in a medium bowl whisk together the pastry flour, all-purpose flour, granulated sugar, and salt. Add the butter and using two knives or a pastry cutter, cut the butter into the flour mixture until you get a pebbly, coarse texture.
  2. In a small bowl combine the buttermilk and ice water.
  3. Using a fork or your fingers, gradually mix the buttermilk mixture into the flour mixture.
  4. Pat the dough into a 4-inch round and wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, and prepare the filling.
  6. Peel the pears, core them and cut into 1/4-inch slices. In a large bowl toss the pear slices with the lemon juice. Sprinkle in the cornstarch, brown sugar and cinnamon and toss until the pears are evenly coated. Set aside.
  7. On a lightly floured surface, roll the chilled dough into a large circle about nine inches. I like rolling it out on floured parchment, then you can pick up the whole thing and put on a baking sheet. Or line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and drape the dough over the rolling pin, transfer to the prepared baking sheet. If the dough tears, patch it up with your fingers. Arrange the pears in a mound in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch border. Fold the border over the filling. It will only cover the pears partially and does not need to be even.
  8. Bake the tart for 15 minutes, and then reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F, keeping the tart in the oven all the while, and bake for another 40 minutes, until the pears are tender and the crust is golden brown.
  9. Brush the crust with the beaten egg and just plop the 2 tablespoons of butter on top of the pears.
  10. Transfer to a plate to cool slightly. Cut into wedges and serve warm or at room temperature.

This would be yummy served with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Quick Rustic Pear Tart

Make Your Own Vanilla

Vanilla is expensive and Imitation Vanilla is just that, and if you taste both they do NOT taste the same.  I never thought about making my own Vanilla till a group of cooks on Facebook of all places were talking about what kind of vanilla to use.

A good number of professional cooks and home cooks make their own.  It is just something I never thought of doing, but love the idea.  I am going to be making Vanilla this week.  I might make enough to give as gifts.  What a great idea!

Many people are often familiar with clear or imitation vanilla extract. The difference between pure vanilla and imitation vanilla is simple; the pure vanilla extract is made from whole vanilla beans extracted using 35%+ alcohol – that’s it! Don’t be fooled by extracts that claim to be pure. Imitation and clear vanilla utilize artificial flavors and harmful chemicals. Pure vanilla extract should be dark brown; the color of Vanilla Beans used in the extraction process.

Here is how simple it is to make your own Vanilla:

How to Make Vanilla Extract

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. Glass Bottle or Jar
  • 7 Vanilla Beans
  • 1 cup Vodka 70 Proof/35% Alcohol (or you can also use Bourbon, Rum or Brandy; any brand/quality)

Directions:

how-to-make-vanilla-extract

Step 1: SLICE

Slice each bean once long-ways and place in a bottle. (If it helps to cut them into smaller, tootsie roll-sized pieces so they fit in the bottle more easily, go for it).

how-to-use-vanilla-beans

Step 2: POUR

Pour one cup of vodka, rum or alcohol of your choice. Make sure vanilla beans are completely submerged.

vanilla-beans-in-vodka

Step 3: SHAKE

Shake once or twice a week.

Step 4: WAIT

Wait about 8 weeks
Presto, your alcohol has turned into delicious vanilla! Store it at room temp and out of direct sunlight, and you can enjoy this puppy til’ the last drop!

homemade-vanilla-extract-recipe

What makes homemade vanilla extract so much better than “store bought”? First, you have control over the quality and type of vanilla used in the extract. Using premium grade vanilla beans will provide significantly better flavor and aroma than commercially produced extracts. Did you know that you can make vanilla extract from different types of vanilla beans? Each different vanilla variety will create a unique flavor!

Do you prefer bold and smokey? If so, try Ugandan vanilla beans. Traditional, rich and creamy? Use Madagascar Vanilla Beans! Floral aroma with a unique cherry-chocolate flavor? Venture to the Tahitian vanilla beans. You can even blend various varieties together! The floral, fruity, cherry-like notes of the Tahitian variety blend wonderfully with the nutty-chocolate character of the Bourbon varieties.

After 8 weeks the vast majority of the extraction process is complete. At this point, the vanilla is ready to use and the vanilla beans can be removed. If the vanilla beans are left in the bottle, the flavor will continue to evolve just like a fine wine (just be sure the beans are always submerged in alcohol).

Whether you are a seasoned baker, procrastinating about making vanilla extract, or looking for the perfect holiday gift this year it is easy and will save you a lot of $$$$.

Making vanilla extract is a fun, easy way to bring a favorite recipe to the next level.

Make Your Own Vanilla

Tips from Culinary School

Found this article online by “my recipes” and thought the information was quite valuable.  I am always looking for ways to make things taste better in simple ways.

Good Stock Changes the Game:

This is probably something you’ve heard before, homemade stock is always going to be superior to the stuff you can buy in boxes, cans, or cubes at the grocery store. We use stock in almost everything. In classic French cuisine, so of course, There are all kinds of distinct schools that go about culinary training differently, but in French cooking, the sauces are everything. And the sauces are all built with great stock. Restaurants, of course, have the advantage of having many, many carcasses and scraps of mirepoix to put into huge vats of stock. It’s hard to get stock like that at home, without the industrial quantities that restaurants work with. But even just making quick stock in your Instant Pot will make your sauces and soups taste much, much better.

Watch the Bits at the Bottom of the Pan

When you’re searing meat or chicken on a pan, you’re, of course, watching the piece of meat so that it browns nicely and doesn’t burn. But it’s equally important to watch the browned bits at the bottom of the pan as they’re a good indicator of whether your pan is running too hot. Plus, those browned bits,  are incredibly dense in flavor. When you have them, you should always try to use them by degreasing and then deglazing the pan after you’re done cooking your meat. That just means pouring out any excess fat and then pouring wine, stock, or another liquid to help scrape up all the delicious bits. That’s an easy way to make a pan sauce, a great addition to your meal.

The Pan Cooks the Food, the Flame Doesn’t

You want to pay attention to how hot the surface of the pan is and how high your burner is turned up. Pans hold heat to varying degrees, and it’s important to keep that in mind when figuring out which one to use for what application. For very delicate things like fish, you often want to turn off the flame when the dish gets to a certain point of cooking, and the heat from the pan will continue to cook it. Pay more attention not just to how big the flame was under the pan, but how hot the pan was getting.

Weighing versus Measuring Cups

In applications where absolute precision isn’t necessary, eyeball amounts, and when precision was necessary, use kitchen scales. Bakers swear by using scales, and digital kitchen scales are a pretty cheap addition to the kitchen, and much better measuring by weight is than relying on measuring spoons and cups. Different flours and sugars weigh different amounts.

Reduce for Flavor, Thicken Later

When you’re making soup or stew, one of the steps is always to reduce a component. You reduce wine to syrup or cream to double cream, and on and on. Part of the point of reducing the liquid is to thicken it. But thickening really shouldn’t be a top priority when you’re reducing down a liquid. You can always use a roux or a quick beurre manie to thicken a liquid later. The point of reducing is to build flavor. You reduce it to the point where you like the flavor, season it, and then thicken it.

Rest Your Meat, Then Reheat

Resting meat is important. When you don’t let it rest after you cook it, whether its steak or roast chicken, the juices spill out over your cutting board and the meat gets dry. But It’s better to let the piece of meat rest even to the point of getting colder than you’d like, and then just put it in a very hot oven for a minute or two to reheat. That lets the juices reincorporate into the meat, then reheats it without cooking it further.

Reheating and Cooling Things Properly Is Crucial

Lots of things in restaurants are made beforehand and reheated because making things a la minute for hundreds of people is a good way to become very overwhelmed. You can bring up most things to the temperature they were when you were cooking them without cooking them further. That means that you cooked, say, a piece of chicken until its internal temperature is 165 degrees. As long as you cool that chicken properly, you can reheat it up to that internal temperature again without it getting overcooked. You don’t want to do that too many times, because the meat will dry out, but you won’t ever overcook your meat by reheating it if you keep that in mind. Similarly, with cooling things down, the danger zone for bacteria is when meat is in between piping hot and refrigerator cold. To get things cold quickly, it’s way more effective to put them in a bowl over a bowl of ice water than throwing them right into the fridge.

Depend on your Senses, Not the Directions

The throughline between very famous chefs of haute cuisine and my grandmother is that they don’t rely on recipes by the letter, they rely on their senses. Pay more attention to how the meat looks and smells and feels to tell when its done (and yeah, a thermometer too!) than what a recipe estimates. After all, recipes are great guidelines, but everyone’s kitchen equipment and conditions are totally different. You cook things until they’re done, and determine that doneness by visual and other cues.

Size Matters

This sort of cheeky mantra but it’s true so choose the right pot, pan, or bowl for the job and it makes all the difference. Too big of a pan means your meat won’t cook properly. Too small of a bowl, and whisking will be a huge chore. It matters not just because of convenience, but because your results will be different if you don’t pay attention.

Hot Plates for Hot Food

The quickest way you can give your at-home meals a restaurant touch is remembering to heat your plates before putting food on them that are meant to be eaten hot. All it takes is sticking them in the oven for a couple minutes before plating your meal. It means the food won’t cool down as fast, and you can enjoy it longer. Try it!

You Can Use Almost Every Scrap

Whether it’s egg whites or garlic skins, restaurant kitchens are geniuses at repurposing what would be food waste in most home kitchens. For them, it’s an economic concern as much as an environmental one, but it’s a practice that’s useful to adapt at home. You can use many of the things that you might otherwise scrap to make your food even better.

Tips from Culinary School

Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust

Savory Sausage Apple Pie.jpg

Use your favorite pork sausage (I had homemade Chorizo in the freezer so used it) , a mix of tart and sweet apples, (I only had one, so used sweet only) and a flavorful apple cider or juice. The liquid will intensify in flavor, much like boiled cider, when reduced. I like to pair this filling with a cheddar cheese crust either with or without a bottom crust. Don’t worry if there is extra moisture released in the bake from your fresh juicy apples. That bottom crust will soak up the delicious flavor. I just poured off the extra liquid and it was perfect!

The original recipe was from “Art of the Pie”, but as you can see I altered the recipe to use what I had on hand, as we were in the middle of a snowstorm and I could not get out of my driveway to make to the store.  I figure you can always adlib and substitute and still have a wonderful result.  My husband loved this recipe.
Makes: one 9-inch deep-dish pie

Ingredients

Sausage and Apple Pie

  • 1recipe Cheddar Cheese Crust (below)
  • 1pound (454 grams) ground pork sausage, cooked and drained
  • 2 to 3tart apples (such as Granny Smiths) cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 2 to 3sweet apples, cored and sliced or roughly chopped
  • 1/4teaspoon (a pinch) salt
  • 1cup (248 grams) apple juice or cider – ( I did not have either, so I used a little Rose Wine)
  • 1/3cup (73 grams) brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4teaspoon fresh diced rosemary
  • 1/4allspice
  • 1egg

Cheddar Cheese Pie Dough

  • 2 1/2cups (363 grams) all-purpose flour, unbleached (use dip and sweep method), plus additional for rolling out dough
  • 1/2teaspoon (3 grams) salt
  • 1/4pound (115 grams) Kerrygold Dubliner Cheese or other sharp cheddar cheese, grated and chopped fine with a knife (about 1 cup grated)
  • 8tablespoons (112 grams) salted or unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
  • 6 to 8tablespoons (88 to 118 grams) ice water

Directions

  1. Make the Cheddar Cheese Dough: Combine all ingredients but the ice water in a large bowl. With clean hands or a pastry cutter, blend the mixture together until it looks like coarse meal with some lumps in it.
  2. Sprinkle 6 tablespoons ice water over the mixture and stir lightly with a fork.
  3. Squeeze a handful of dough together. Mix in a bit more water as needed.
  4. Divide the dough in half and make two chubby discs about 5 inches (12 centimeters) across. Wrap the discs separately in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
  5. To make the Sausage and Apple Pie: Place the apples, salt, juice or cider, brown sugar, thyme, rosemary, and allspice in a sauté or fry pan and cook on medium-low heat until you can just start to put a fork into the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and set it aside. Reserve the juice.
  6. Pour the juice into a small saucepan. If you have less than a cup, add more juice or cider to make 1 cup, then turn the heat to low and cook until the juice has reduced in amount to about one-quarter its amount and has nearly caramelized. Be careful not to let it burn. This will take about 10 to 12 minutes.
  7. Spoon the sausage into the apple mixture, pour over the reduced cider, and mix well.
  8. Adjust the salt to taste and let the filling cool.
  9. Roll out the bottom crust and place in your pie pan. Add the filling.
  10. Roll out the upper crust and place it on top. Seal the edges, crimp, and vent.
  11. Make an egg wash by beating together the egg and 1 tablespoon of water with a fork. Brush the pie with egg wash.
  12. Bake at 400° F (205° C) for 40 minutes. Give the pie two more egg washes at 10-minute intervals during the first 20 minutes of the bake.
  13. Let the pie cool for 15 minutes or more before serving.
Sausage & Apple Pie with a Cheddar Crust

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

I found this article online and made a few corrections and additions, but it has great information.

These baking mistakes threaten your beautiful bundts, bread, and bar cookies. Here’s what you should do instead…

In cooking, you’re encouraged to riff: Edamame in your stir-fry? Sure! A splash of rice wine vinegar in your pan sauce? Why not! Curious about herbes de Provence in your chicken rub? Give it a whirl!

In baking, however, creativity should be directed toward what you decide to make and how you decorate it—not how you cook it. That’s because baking is a science; cooking is an art. Science has rules. Art? Not so much.

You don’t read the recipe.

As you do with any IKEA furniture, you should read through the steps and gather your tools before you start mixing and whipping. Otherwise, you might get started and realize you’re one short a cup of cocoa powder of what your recipe needs. Or worse, you’ll start mixing up the dough for the birthday party you’re going to tonight and then realize it’s supposed to chill overnight. Oops!

The fix: Pull your recipe up on your phone, or get it from your cookbook. Read the ingredient list, and assemble everything that’s listed. Then, read the directions. You can even go so far as to “pretend” each step. This way, you can double check you have every ingredient and every appliance or tool you need.

You decide to wing it instead of measuring the ingredients.

The “a little of this, a little of that” mentality may suit you well in cooking, but in baking, it could backfire. After all, consider this: cookies, cakes, and bread contain many of the same ingredients: eggs, flour, sugar, butter, for example. In the right ratios, they make a specific type of baked good. In the wrong ratios, they could be a disaster. That’s why it’s vital to measure every ingredient, from the flour to the tiniest bit of cinnamon.

The fix: Use your measuring spoons and cups. You need the right ratios to get the best results. Save the winging it for your salad dressing.

You don’t respect the comma.

Has the comma in “1 cup flour, sifted” ever confused you? What about the comma in “1/2 cup pecans, chopped”? The comma is telling you something very important. Do you know what?

The fix: The comma is telling you to first measure the ingredient and then perform the task. Measure the cup of flour, then sift it. Or measure the half cup of pecans, then chop them. There’s a big difference between half a cup of chopped pecans and half a cup of pecans that were measured, then chopped. It can dramatically affect your final result.

You use liquid measuring cups for dry ingredients (or vice versa).

Liquid measuring cups and dry measuring cups measure things differently. Though it’s not a significant amount, it’s enough that it could affect the texture of your final product.

The fix: Use wet measuring cups (typically, the glass type you pour from) for everything liquid: water, oil, honey, milk, molasses, corn syrup, etc. Use dry cups for everything else, from flour and sugar to chocolate chips and yogurt. With the dry cups, be sure to use a flat surface, like the back of a knife, to swipe across the top of the cup to remove excess before adding to the batter.

You dip your measuring cup into the flour.

Dipping a measuring cup into a bag or jar of flour packs the flour into the well of the measuring cup. It may seem like the easiest way to scoop flour, but you’re actually getting more flour than you really need. Too much flour will turn into dense bread, hard cookies, and stiff cakes.

The fix: You need the same amount of flour each time to get consistent results, and you can do this in two ways: The less accurate option is to use a spoon to lightly scoop flour into a dry measuring cup, then use a flat edge (like a knife) to level off the flour. The most accurate way to measure flour is with a digital scale. A cup of all-purpose flour should be 130 grams.

You don’t preheat your oven.

We’ve all been there: You’ve just finished rolling out a tray full of cookie dough only to realize your oven is cool as a cucumber. So to save time, you turn the oven on and just stick the pan in any way. Bad idea. The quick and sudden heat is an important part of the baking process. If the dough heats slowly, you may have a mess on your hands.

The fix: If you realize the oven isn’t pre-heated when you’re ready to bake, just let the dough or batter sit while the oven heats up. Most ovens can be heated in about 10 minutes time. If you’re working with a temperature-sensitive dough, pop it in the fridge until the oven is ready.

You’ve never measured your oven’s temperature.

I have some bad news: Your oven could be lying to you. Just because it says 350°F doesn’t mean it really is. That means your brownies or pastries may not bake properly because your oven could be too hot, or even too cool. And 25°F in one direction can make a big difference in the final product.

The fix: Invest in an oven thermometer. Hang it from the grates in your oven the next time you turn it on. Let the oven pre-heat fully, and then see what the thermometer says. That will give you an idea of how correct your oven is—and how you need to adjust the oven when you bake in it.

You substitute baking powder for baking soda.

They might share a similar name, and they even look similar out of the box. But baking soda and baking powder are quite different. Baking soda must have an accompanying acid (lemon juice, vinegar, buttermilk, for example) to activate it; baking powder, on the other hand, has that acid already. If you use the wrong one, your baked goods will take a hit.

18 Bad Baking Habits You Need to Stop

Millionaires Shortbread Cookies

Millionaires.jpgIngredients

Crust

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup sugar

3/4 teaspoon salt

16 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Filling

1 can sweetened condensed milk

1 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup corn syrup

8 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 teaspoon salt Chocolate

8 oz bittersweet chocolate (6 oz chopped fine, 2 oz grated)

For the Crust: Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Line bottom and sides of 13- by 9-inch baking pan with aluminum foil. Combine flour, sugar, and salt in medium bowl. Add melted butter and stir with rubber spatula until the flour is evenly moistened. Crumble dough evenly over bottom of prepared pan. Using your fingertips and palm of your hand, press and smooth dough into an even thickness. Using a fork, pierce dough at 1-inch intervals. Bake until light golden brown and firm to touch, 25 to 30 minutes. Transfer pan to wire rack. Using a sturdy metal spatula, press on the entire surface of warm crust to compress (compressing crust while warm will make cutting finished bars easier). Cool crust to just warm, at least 20 minutes.

For the Filling: Melt butter in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add sugar and cook, stirring constantly, until mixture is homogenous and sugar is melted 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in sweetened condensed milk, increase heat to medium-high, and bring to boil. Cook, stirring constantly and scraping corners of the saucepan, until mixture registers 235 degrees, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in salt. Pour over crust and spread to even thickness. Let cool until filling is just warm, about 20 minutes.

For the Chocolate: Microwave 6 ounces chopped chocolate at 50 percent power, stirring every 15 seconds until fully melted but not much warmer than body temperature, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 2 ounces grated chocolate, and stir until melted, returning to microwave for no more than 5 seconds at a time to complete melting if necessary. Spread chocolate evenly over the surface of filling. Refrigerate shortbread until chocolate is just set, about 10 minutes. Let sit at room temperature for at least 1 hour before cutting.

Using foil, remove shortbread from pan and transfer to cutting board; discard foil. Using a serrated knife and sawing motion, cut shortbread in half crosswise to create two 6 ½- by 9-inch rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half to make four 3 ½ – by 9-inch strips. Cut each strip crosswise into equal 10 pieces. (Shortbread can be stored at room temperature, between layers of parchment, for up to one week.) I just cut mine into squares, so they are not too big, as they are quite rich. (but yummy)

I like to put on parchment paper on a cooking tray after cutting and separating the cookies to freeze, then you can keep them a bit longer.

Millionaires Shortbread Cookies